The Ultimate Car Crash TV – Beaten by a Car Crash


So the most controversial series of Big Brother ever, the ultimate in car crash TV, was beaten in the ratings by a real life car crash – the return of Top Gear, complete with exclusive footage of the crash that nearly took the life of Richard Hammond.

Thanks to the wonders of Sky+, we watched both, Top Gear as it went out, and Celebrity Big Brother tonight – spooling through the adverts of course. 😀

Anyway, Top Gear first. Not surprisingly they made a big song and dance about having the Hamster back – quite literally. Clarkson and May opened the show alone, and then having done their opening spiel, introduced Hammond who came down a sort of slightly cheap effort at a glittering celeb style staircase – as Clarkson said, they didn’t really want to spend too much on it! After that Hammond thanked everybody involved in the aftermath of the accident, and people for all their good wishes, and the show proceeded very much as any normal episode. We had Clarkson taking the new Jaguar around the track, and all three of the presenters attempting to complete some roadworks in record time, and the star in a reasonably priced car was Jamie Oliver. Then we got to the main event. If you’ve read the Richard Hammond article in the most recent edition of the Top Gear Magazine this was effectively the same thing but with pictures. So we saw Richard Hammond do one of his pieces to camera where he rather prophetically says that using the afterburner could lead to the biggest accident you’ve ever seen in your life… We saw his earlier runs, and then the actual run that went wrong. There has been concern over whether the footage should be shown at all – Richard Hammond himself addresses it on his Top Gear Blog. He quite rightly says that although it is sensitive, the footage should be shown, precisely to show that things do go wrong, and that even with all the safety equipment and every care being taken, things do go wrong. As he says:

I figure that if just one individual scorching round the back roads in their hot hatch remembers seeing me upside down at 230mph and thinks that yes, if things can go that badly wrong in Top Gear’s TV fantasy world then they could in the real world, and they lift off because there might just be a tractor coming round that blind corner at the worst possible moment, then it’s all been worth it.

Not really much I can add to that. The whole segment, along with other clips is available online on the BBC2 Broadband Service, or an edited version on the BBC News Site.

So over to the other side, and the final of Celebrity Big Brother. Really there were no surprises – indeed I actually pretty well predicted the final order on Friday night. Danielle and Jack came out first. Although they came out together, officially Jack was in sixth, with Danielle in fifth. They were greeted by pretty unanimous booing, and as with Jo and Jade got the now familiar selection of clips, were speechless, and denied being racist. Ian was out next to a warm reception from the crowd – as Davina said, the first evictee not to be booed. Dirk was up next, again to a good reception – with parts of the crowd singing the A-Team theme. Then it came down to the final two, with Jermaine Jackson coming in second to a great response, complete with a Jackson Five sing-along.

Finally we had Shilpa, and a really quite surprising reaction from parts of the crowd. It was really apparent that there was a vocal minority in the crowd who really didn’t like Shilpa. I think it’s perhaps the first time that a winner has had quite such a mixed reaction. In terms of the voting, she had 63% of the final vote, so it was a win by a good margin, but clearly she is a contestant that divided opinion. Indeed some people even believed it was fixed.

We then got to the interview. It is interesting to note, that in her earlier interview, Danielle had been asked how she thought Shilpa would react when she saw the same clips, to which Danielle responded that she would be forgiving. That produced a decidedly grumbly reaction from the audience – but in fact proved to be right.

Shilpa was shown all the key clips, and all the things that had been said about her behind her back, and was quite visibly shocked. However in response she was anything if not magnanimous:

I just want to forget things. Things happen and people make mistakes. We’re all human beings, we’re all fallible. Jade didn’t mean to be racist…If this created any sort of misunderstanding, I want to put things to rest – she is not a racist…I am so happy I took up this opportunity. I don’t want people to think they welcomed an Indian and she made trouble here.

Those sentiments were further reiterated at the post show press conference when Shilpa along with the other celebrities defended Jade and also backed a tearful Danielle when she appeared to face the press.

Needless to say, the pleas have fallen on somewhat deaf ears with the tabloid press – having had Jade, and then Jo, they are now concentrating on Danielle, whose relationship with Teddy Sheringham is now the subject of ‘talks‘.

So fairly obviously, Jade, Jo and Danielle have done serious damage to their careers through the events of the programme, whilst Shilpa has gone from being unknown to being probably the best known Indian celebrity in the UK. I expect to see more of Ian and Dirk in the UK over the coming months too. Perhaps the most interesting bit of information to come up is that Jermaine Jackson is actually putting together a musical about his family that will be launched in the UK – expect many more sing-along a Jackson Five to come…

Smoke Alarm Chinese Water Torture

Smoke Alarm

Last night we experienced what is probably the Smoke Alarm equivalent of Chinese Water Torture – a seemingly unstoppable, almost random intermittent beeping from one of our mains powered Smoke Alarms.

Like all new houses in the UK over the past few years, our house was built with mains powered smoke detectors, one of which is placed in the hall downstairs, and the other in a similar position on the upstairs landing. Being mains powered we’ve not really thought much about them – they are basically just there, and get periodically tested – usually thanks to something cooking.

Anyway, last night, the detector downstairs started beeping. It wasn’t regular, but was fairly frequent – frequent enough to be annoying. I took a look, and written on the case was that it had a battery backup, to ensure the alarm worked even if the mains supply failed, so perhaps it was the battery. We turned off the mains circuit for the smoke detectors, and after a bit of fiddling managed to remove the unit, only to find that the battery was a 9 Volt PP3 and typically we didn’t have any of those sitting around. More than that, with the battery disconnected, the smoke alarm then beeped again a couple of times – obviously some backup of the backup… Ok, new batteries it was, so off I went to one of the local convenience stores, and while I was at it, I got a second battery so we could change the one in the unit upstairs too.

I came back with the new batteries, and we replaced them in both units, and what happened – within a few minutes it started beeping again.

I went and took down the unit, and then looked up on the Internet for any clues as to the problem. The main suggestion I could find was that something was that there was a build-up of dirt and fluff on the sensor – indeed I remembered something similar causing a fire evacuation when I was working at SSE. So out came the vacuum cleaner, and I ran it all around the vents on the unit, and replaced it on the ceiling. About five minutes later it did give a couple more beeps – but since then, nothing, so hopefully it is now all sorted. The unit in question is right outside the kitchen door, so is exposed to a lot more dirt and fluff, so that does explain it – the lesson being, periodically vacuum your smoke alarms!

Jo and Cleo Out


So once again the voting went with the bookies – 48.4% to evict Jo, and 27.9% to evict Cleo. Jo was really no surprise anyway as the tabloids were campaigning to get her out – indeed if Danielle had been up, I have no doubt it would have been her and Jo to go instead. Having said that, Danielle did hear the crowd chanting ‘Get Jo Out’ – and I think is now even more frightened about what her reception will be. Certainly Danielle has received worse press than Jo in some respects, and also has the possibility that things may be over with her Teddy.

Interview wise, the pattern of the interview with Jo was similar to that with Jade last week, aside from a joke about her dressing gown at the beginning (some of the Times CBB Blog readers will be disappointed that she wasn’t evicted in the dressing gown…) – indeed the news footage sequence was identical to last week. Davina went through the key moments of controversy, and not surprisingly, Jo denied being a racist. She also said that showing an edited version of the arguments made it look worse than it was, to which Davina said that the production team had watched the everything at it wasn’t much better. The other interesting moment of the interview was when Jo justified her laughing as being her normal reaction to stressful situations, at which point she briefly laughed, and commented that she’d probably start laughing from the stress now. The brought a very swift and direct response from Davina of “I wouldn’tâ€?… To some extent, in the same way as with Jade I suspect the real grilling will come from one of the tabloid newspapers on Sunday.

Cleo didn’t escape criticism either, as in the same argument she didn’t intervene, but eventually went and got Jermaine to come and help. She justified this in her interview by saying that she felt that since Jermaine commanded respect from both sides of the argument she felt he was better to intervene. She also demonstrated at the end of her interview quite how impressions can be different in the outside world than within the house by suggesting that she thought Danielle and Jack would do well – which produced a pretty well instant reaction from the audience. Davina said that it would be interesting to see how she felt when she had seen the newspaper coverage, and also heard some of the comments that have been caught on camera. I’m quite sure that Danielle and Jack will be the first two out on Sunday, the only question being who will be out first.

As to who will actually win, the bookies are favouring Shilpa, mainly as a result of the earlier events in the house. However I’d not rule out the possibility of Jermaine coming out on top. Dirk has some supporters, and certainly he is entertaining at times, and does have a pretty dry sense of humour, however I’d really be surprised if it wasn’t either Shilpa or Jermaine at the end.

Finally, it looks like Channel 4 are riding high – the director of programmes has come out and said that the race row saved the show from being dull

24 is Back for Day 6


24 day 6 kicked off this week on Sky. As before, with the need to outdo the previous season cliff-hanger, the writers had left themselves with a bit of a quandary – a realtime TV show, and the main character incarcerated in a Chinese prison.

In order to get around the problem, the first episode had the conclusion of a plan to bring Jack back from China in order to be used as a bargaining chip with a terrorist gang. He is brought off the plane, obviously having been abused in the prison, but not having broken. As with previous opening episodes, the sense of time goes out the window as Jack manages to shave and have a hair cut in minutes, ready to be handed over to the terrorists, and then despite further torture at the hands of the terrorist group has managed to escape by the end of episode one. In episode two he quickly gets transport, and a trusty mobile phone, and within a few minutes has disobeyed orders and we’re back into the usual 24 routine of Jack being somewhat of a loose canon whilst the authorities try to keep up.

Unlike the last time around we didn’t open with the shock tactics of a character cull, mainly as there are precious few major characters left in CTU, although many do reappear including a larger role for Wayne Palmer, now elected President, and the return of Milo who just disappeared from the programme back in the first season.

Alongside the regulars, there is a pretty wide number of recognisable faces that turn up in the first two episodes. Peter MacNicol, who some will remember from Ally McBeal has a role, as does Alexander Siddig who previously appeared in Deep Space Nine. We are also expecting an appearance from James Cromwell, cast as Jack’s father. Even if they don’t have time for a regular role, there is always the chance for a cameo, with Stephen Merchant putting in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it appearance in episode one. Apparently Ricky Gervais was considered too well known, and his cameo wasn’t used.

So after two episodes the show has definitely kicked off at a frantic pace. In terms of the threat, it again has been ramped up, with a series of co-ordinated attacks already in progress, and large numbers of casualties. Unfortunately, after the Russian separatists of day 5, they’ve dropped back to the old stereotypical and unoriginal fallback of an Islamic terrorist threat as seen in a number of previous series. Hopefully, the other aspects of day 6 won’t be quite as much of a repeat – we’ll wait and see.

West Wing – President Bartlett takes on Dr Jacobs

We’ve been enjoying our regular Sunday night dose of the West Wing as Channel 4 re-runs the entire series from the beginning. This week, we had the third episode of the second season, covering the Mid-terms. It also contains one of the classic oft remembered moments from the series, with a great performance from Martin Sheen.

President Bartlett has been obsessing over the first opponent he beat in an election, who looks likely to win an election to a local school board, with Toby asking him how he beat his opponent, and Bartlett being unsure. There is also a reception for talk radio hosts going on in the White House. In a break from awaiting the mid-term results, the President goes to speak to the talk radio reception, but to the concern of his staff goes off topic in spectacular style when the behaviour of one of the guests does not follow protocol.